Days in the MSF mission of Bokoro are long. We start the morning at 6:45 am with a team meeting. At that time, the temperature is pretty much the coolest it will be all day: 38 degrees Celsius. By the time the meeting ends (around 7:15 am), we're already swimming in the forties. I say swimming because we are literally drenched all day. I suddenly became aware of every single pore in my body! Ice cold water (when you're lucky enough to find some) now tastes like a fine glass of Châteauneuf-du-pape.
The moment I look forward to the most is my night time shower. But by the time it comes I have to confront the fear of coming face-to-face with the gigantic (albeit non-venomous) spiders that constantly lurk around the corners of the washing cabinets. Well, the struggle is definitely real. But I heard once that life begins at the end of your comfort zone, and it looks like I am flying first class!
The other day I visited an Inpatient Therapeutic Feeding Center (ITFC). This is where severely malnourished children are treated. There are no words to describe how it feels to stare into the eyes of a two-year-old baby with nothing but skin on his bones. I have seen pictures and documentaries; but none of those have captured what I saw in this child’s eyes. They were glazed and staring into oblivion, when they should have been shining with curiosity about everything surrounding him.
Yes, life in the field is not the easiest. We work six-seven days a week, usually 12 hours a day. We sweat everything we drink, we are up by 5:00 am and our digestive systems occasionally turn into hostels for amoebas. However, at the end of the day, we still get access to water, food and bed nets that protect us from all kinds of insects crawling in our bedrooms or tents. Overall we are quite fortunate. But those are basic human needs that anyone should have access to, especially children! The thought of these severely malnourished children striving to survive through the extreme heat is absolutely heart breaking, and quite frankly, unacceptable.
Some time ago, the children’s hospital generator broke down, so we gave them ours. Ever since then, we’ve been functioning with a small generator that supplies the whole MSF base. We therefore have to shut it down two or three times a day in order to let it rest. As a result we have no cold water and the fans, which make the nights slightly bearable, are often not working. Despite all this, I see how hard the whole team here at MSF is working around the clock, under an unrelenting 45 degrees sun. We are running mobile clinics to treat malnourished children, improving access to clean water, building latrines and the list goes on. I am just so grateful and proud to be part of this team!
Knowing that we can help a population in crisis, and make these children’s lives a little bit better, a little bit brighter… It helps me sleep through these hot Chadian nights.